Books versus Social media?

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Thu, 09/30/2010 - 14:50

There is a lively on-going debate about  the role of social media in libraries in Sweden. The debate started from a panel discussion held at Gothenburg Book Fair and escalated after a debate article published in Dagens Nyheter. I was unfortunate to miss the panel, but like many others the debate about a debate is very interesting. Olof Sundin and Peter Alsbjer have already expressed educated opinions about the unfruitfulness of the approach of polarising books and social media. It is certainly true that libraries are not exclusively about books or social media.


It is, however, somehow symptomatic that the essentially quite healthy debate on the future (and present) of libraries tends to get stuck on concrete things. Libraries are equated to books, library buildings, social media services, OPACs, users, librarians and other things that have been argued to be relevant in the context of libraries. It is conceivable that it is easy to conceptualise libraries as something related to books or social media services, because everyone  tends to have some opinion on what they are or what they are supposed to be. The traditionalist idea of libraries (the categorisation of Alsbjer is very enlightening) as something that is primarily related to books is easy to debate with a counter argument that libraries should be about social media, users or the competence of librarians instead of focusing on that why and how libraries are supposed to have something to do with all these things and as Åse Hedemark, Frida Carlgren & Charlotta Ekman and Gustav Bolin all point out, who is the one who decides.  Are they supposed to be librarians, architects, authors or the 'people' (whoever they are in practice in different cases).